Pubdate: Wed, 19 Oct 2016
Source: New York Times (NY)
Copyright: 2016 The New York Times Company


Credit Christopher DeLorenzo People in nine states, including
California, Florida and Massachusetts, will vote Nov. 8 on ballot
proposals permitting recreational or medical use of marijuana.

These initiatives could give a big push to legalization, prompting the
next president and Congress to overhaul the countrya€™s failed drug

This is a big moment for what was a fringe movement a few years ago. A
Gallup poll released on Wednesday showed 60 percent of Americans
support legalizing marijuana, up from 31 percent in 2000 and 12
percent in 1969.

The drive to end prohibition comes after decades in which marijuana
laws led to millions of people being arrested and tens of thousands
sent to prison, a vast majority of whom never committed any violent
crimes. These policies have had a particularly devastating effect on
minority communities. Federal and state governments have spent untold
billions of dollars on enforcement, money that could have been much
better spent on mental health and substance abuse treatment.

Continue reading the main story Marijuana Laws and Coming Votes Nine
states will vote on ballot measures that increase access to marijuana.

Nov. ballot measures Existing laws Recreational use Legalized
recreational and medical uses Medical use Medical use only ME WA ND MT
VT NH Laws in Ohio and Pennsylvania have not yet taken effect.

Arkansas has two ballot measures.

Montana residents will vote on a proposal to
liberalize an existing medical marijuana law that allows dispensaries to
serve only three users each. Some states not highlighted here allow
limited access to certain medical marijuana products.
Sources: National Conference of State Legislatures; Ballotopedia
By The New York Times
So far, Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington and the District of
Columbia have legalized recreational use of marijuana, and 25 states
permit medical use. A recent Cato Institute study found that the states
that have legalized recreational use have so far had no meaningful
uptick in the use of marijuana by teenagers, or other negative
consequences predicted by opponents.

For example, in Colorado, drug-related expulsions and suspensions from
schools have gone down in recent years.

There has been no spike in drug-related traffic accidents and
fatalities in Colorado or Washington.

On Election Day, voters in Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts
and Nevada will consider proposals to allow recreational use. In
California, which approved medical use in 1996, polls show that the
measure is likely to win. In Massachusetts, a recent poll showed 55
percent of likely voters supporting legalization. In Arkansas,
Florida, Montana and North Dakota, residents will vote on medical marijuana.

If Florida voters say yes, other Southern states that have been
resistant to liberalizing drug laws could reconsider their
prohibitions, too.

Passage of these proposals should increase pressure on the federal
government to change how it treats marijuana.

The Obama administration has chosen not to enforce federal
antimarijuana laws in states like Colorado and Washington. But this
bizarre situation cana€™t last a€" even as more states legalize the
drug, state-licensed marijuana businesses remain criminal operations
under federal law. Even if they are not prosecuted by the federal
government, this conflict in their legal status creates immense problems.

Hillary Clinton has promised to move marijuana from Schedule 1 of the
Controlled Substances Act (for drugs like heroin and LSD that have no
accepted medical use) to Schedule 2, which includes opioid drugs that
are medically useful but have a a€œhigh potential for abuse.a€ While
that change would be an improvement, that classification would not
eliminate contradictions between federal and state laws when it comes
to recreational use of marijuana.

Donald Trump has said he supports the medical use of marijuana, but
has opposed full legalization.

States are driving the change in marijuana policy because they see the
damage created by draconian drug laws on communities, families and
state budgets. Ita€™s time the federal government acknowledged these
costs and got out of the way of states adopting more rational laws.
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